Today’s #Tango Thought 057: El Corte.
The words “El Corte” translated to English from Spanish literally means ‘Cut, or Edge’. However, in the Tango world, the word has another meaning: Nijmegen, The Netherlands. What’s in/at Nijmegen ? A dance studio of certain renown: El Corte! Think of El Corte as one of your GoTo destinations. Assuming you want to experience dance in an environment that is at once fun, and at the same time entirely engaging on multiple levels. Caveat: You must be willing and open to a whole different way of looking at Tango, and what you think Tango is and is not.
Still another reason to visit El Corte is it is the very foundation of what this page talks about: Social Tango. Social Tango has two definitions. 1.) Is the act of being social with others while at a Milonga. 2.) The act of dancing at a Milonga on a very crowded floor in an extremely conscious but very economical and musical fashion that is based on the embrace and the walk, and not so much on steps/pattens/figures. Sometimes Social Tango is referred to as “Salon” style Tango with one major difference – smaller is better. Salon encompasses a wide range of ideas and practices – open to close to ‘v’ and everything in between. It’s the catchall idea of tango, whereas Social Tango’s 2 primary guiding principles are 1.) Close Embrace – Squared Up or Buttons-To-Buttons, sometimes referred to Core-To-Core. 2.) Smaller. Everything that is done as if you were dancing on a crowded social dance floor in BsAs – Smaller vocabulary, and it’s execution. El Corte exemplifies both of these ideas, embodies the 1st one in spades, and teaches the 2nd of these ideas, as a way of accessing the dance. Think Dancing In a Small Space.
El Corte raised the bar of Salon style Tango which would eventually give birth to the recent idea of the Tango Marathon (and then it’s later iteration which was a backlash to the over-popular Marathon concept: The Tango Encuentro) but ultimately moving more towards Social Tango. How’s that ? They pioneered the idea of a beer/water/juice/wine bar combined with snacks, lounge chairs, with a refined version of dancing in a small space, while creating an extremely relaxed non-dance studio studio environment combined with an insatiable desire to explore ideas of what tango is and could be to create a different idea of Tango. This idea co-combined with what was being taught, how it was experienced, and the personnel that was presenting these ideas in a relaxed environment was a major revolution in Tango’s social development in Europe. It emulated the experience in Buenos Aires almost better than Buenos Aires did itself.
One thing to note about El Corte, and to be fair this is not about throwing shade, is that after your first few times, while the social environment never wears, you may notice that the quality of dance never goes up or down. It’s always about the same. 🙁 This is not a slight against them, or their way of teaching, it’s a statement about their focus on inclusionary Tango and not exclusionary Tango. It’s about their focus on 1st definition above, and not necessarily the 2nd…until you experience the Chained Salon Weekend. Everyone, in their opinion, everyone should be able to have a nice time. Everyone should dance. Everyone should dance with whomever they want to dance with. This is about fun, and creating a fun environment to play in. It’s also about who shows up, this is kinda like Stone Soup for Tango, or as Tom Hanks character, Forrest Gump said, “Life is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you’re going to get!“. The Milonga experience at El Corte is very similar, and that’s because there are hundreds of people from all over Europe visiting for the weekend bringing with them all with varying levels of quality and ideas on what is desirable Tango. So you’re bound to have a chocolate-like experience. That is until the Chained Salon Weekend starts.
Wait!!! What’s a ‘Chained’ Salon ? It’s a series of Milongas, one right after the other. Very similar to the Encuentro concept, but there are more or longer milonga time periods with an emphasis on being social (hence the 1st definition above), and gearing towards the second idea through a series of workshops/seminars over the course of the weekend starting on Friday night and ending on Sunday afternoon. There are definitive breaks in between each Milonga time period. There’s an afternoon Milonga, and an evening Milonga. There’s just one catch, and it’s not monetary: When the Milonga stops, you must go outside for about an hour or so, while they clean and make ready for the next Milonga session, and then you must re-que to get back in! They have a very specific number of people that can be inside El Corte at any one time. So once you leave, you’re out. IF there are other people waiting to get in, and there usually are, you’re not getting back in.
The Highlight of the Chained Salon Weekend: Owner, maestro, teacher extraordinaire, and all around fab person – Eric Jorissen. Spend a weekend with Eric, and his Chained Salon workshops, and they’ll change your Tango life. Usually his space lab and his Sunday afternoon sessions are packed (upwards of 200 ppl) and usually, his sessions are on DIASS (Dancing In A Small Space). His ideas on Tango, and the demonstration of these ideas has quite literally revolutionized tango and changed the very fabric of Tango in Europe. He makes the material easy, accessible, and quite fun. He doesn’t stress you out about getting it perfect but more about getting you to try out these ideas, and to start using them in your dance, immediately. Honestly, there are very few teachers that this site recommends you go study with, Eric Jorissen is one of them for a variety of reasons. You want to spend time in these sessions. You’ll notice that NO ONE sits out, no one, and they’re usually packed, especially the SAT/SUN sessions. The funny thing is that usually before the Friday Night session, the line of dance is like the wild west, boleos, ganchos, colgadas, crazy dancing in the middle of the floor to an extent. But after the session, most of that stuff disappears, and things calm down a bit. The same thing happens on Saturday afternoon after the Space Lab, things get more refined and more clear, and more clean! And finally by the 3rd session on Sunday, the line of dance looks more like you would hope it would, the quality of dance goes up not down. So if for no other reason than to visit the Netherlands, to dance at El Corte, or to spend a few weeks there to dance, learn, study, practice, play, explore, or to hang out with Eric, you really should go spend time in his sessions. No. Really! You should!
PS: Go for the ‘Chained’ Salon Weekends (which are free, the Milongas are free the sessions are not), or plan to spend a week for International Week or Teacher’s Week (yes they have a teacher training course). But really, their crown jewel of the El Corte experience is New Year’s Eve! Quite possibly the best experience in Europe for NYE! There are sleeping spots at El Corte & showers…and They have sleeping mats for sleeping on the Mezzanine OR dorm rooms that can be rented very cheaply so you could stay and hang out, just something to consider. You can reserve a sleeping spot from their website or call them directly.